The book Starclimber, by Kenneth Oppel, is a tale about the race to space. It is the third book in the Airborne series. In this time period airplanes have not yet been invented, but instead people rule the skies with zeppelin-like ships. These ships are less flammable than those like the Hindenburg and are held aloft with a gas called hydruim rather than hydrogen.
Matt Cruse is an employee on one of these ships. He aspires to one day be a captain of his own ship rather than working under others. Currently he is too young to be respected, although he has worked on several important missions. Matt wants to go up on the first ship into space because he believes he belongs in the sky and wants to be in the next great frontier. He believes the night sky calls to him. Matt thinks, "The night sky beckoned to me with even greater intensity" (Oppel 4). Cruse is already considered somewhat of a hero because of his previous adventures, which shall not be mentioned here for fear of spoiling the plots of the first two books.
Kate de Vries is Matt Cruse's best friend as well as partner on several scientific missions. She is a zoologist, but cannot gain respect from the scientific community of men because she is a woman. She is from a wealthy family and must keep up appearances or her parents will not allow her to continue her scientific studies. Kate is always on the hunt for new life to discover and will do anything to get into space.
In Starclimber, France and Canada are racing to be the first country in space. France is attempting to build a giant skyscraper, which they want to reach all the way into outer space. Canada has a secret space program, they are sending a cable into space attached to a counterweight, then sending a ship up it. Cruse and Kate, Canadians, are offered to join this space program to be the first people in space. Cruse is invited because of his skill at ship-guiding, while Kate is invited because of her scientific discoveries. They want her to go up in case there is life in space they want an expert to be there. In order for Kate to get into the program, she has to tell her parents that she will get married to Mr. Sanderson when she returns. When Matt sees the engagement ring, Kate says, "This...is my ticket to outer space" (Oppel 169). In order for Matt to get into the program, he must pass a series of excruciating tests to make sure he is fit for the job.
While in space there will be many challenges. No one has ever been in space before, so they do not know what kind of conditions they will face. They also do not know if there is life in space or if they will be alone. If there is life in space, they do not know if it is hostile or even intelligent. They also would be extremely vulnerable since the only way they are connected to earth is by one cable against the never ending depths of space.
1. Do you think Kate was right to lie about getting married in order to get on the ship? If you do not think so, what do you think she should have done instead?
2. What do you think of the idea of attaching the ship to a cable? Do you believe it will be successful?